Christian Harris was asked to assist CIMSPA in a webinar on leisure facility cleaning. Below are the top ten questions that were asked in advance, and Christian’s answers.


The government specifically mentioned harder breathing, and the volume and frequency of surfaces being touched as reasons that facilities haven’t yet been able to open. Why are these things important and why do they affect our facilities and not supermarkets or pubs?


Harder breathing essentially means that droplets of breath – which is how the virus spreads – will be more numerous and travel further. It is that coupled with the fact that surfaces are touched frequently, that produces the risk. That’s how I interpret the government’s position. Even within the sector there are areas that would not apply e.g. a yoga studio, but everything is being bunched together for the moment.


I’m hearing a lot of different terms being thrown around, and the Fit Together guidance also includes these three words. What is the difference between cleaning, disinfection and sanitising? What do I need to know? What do I need to do?


Cleaning is the removal of soiling (whether visible or invisible) from a surface

Sanitising is the reduction of bacteria & viruses

Disinfection is the removal of bacteria & viruses


C comes before D – you cannot disinfect without cleaning


Given Fit Together specifies disinfection, you need to do thorough deep cleaning first to remove soiling, then disinfect.


Sanitising can help to remove bacteria and viruses during day-to-day maintenance. You will need to clean periodically too – otherwise you will eventually end up with a layer of chemical from the sanitiser on the surface which will both negate the effect of sanitisation and act like a petrie dish.


Given I cannot disinfect or sanitise without surfaces being clean, how can I tell if my surfaces are clean enough or not?


I recommend that you test the effectiveness of your cleaning regime before you do any disinfection. As well as look, touch and smell, you can measure hygiene levels. There are various ways to do this but the easiest, quickest and cheapest is called Fresh Check. This is a spray that is purple in colour. If you spray a surface and the liquid stays purple, the surface is clean. If you spray it and the liquid changes colour, the surface is contaminated.


You can get a 5% discount by entering the code CIMSPA on


What are the key elements to getting cleaning right?


To do effective cleaning, you need to get your ROTAS right:

  • Regularity
  • Organisation
  • Time
  • Ability
  • System


You can find out further info on this here:


What is fogging and electrostatic spraying? Should I buy a fogger or electrostatic sprayer to clean my facility?


These are methods of applying sanitising or disinfecting chemicals. They are not cleaning methods. You need to thoroughly clean before you use these; they would be substitutes to manual sanitisation or disinfection and their main benefit is speed of application.


How often should I be cleaning and / or sanitising equipment / door handles / showers / floors etc? Does regular sanitising of equipment or other touch points during the day have any effect on the amount of cleaning I need to do?


This is based on need, essentially. I suggest you do a walk through of the facility and see what surfaces will be touched, by how many people, and on what frequency. You can then come up with a plan. Given the ukactive guidance says “regular cleaning of high touch points…during opening” that suggests multiple cleans per day.


You do need to clean, and not just sanitise. Certain products claim to work as both cleaners and sanitisers; you should test these to ensure that you are not seeing a build-up of residue over time. Remember this won’t be visible to the naked eye.


What should / shouldn’t I provide to members to clean up before and after themselves?


I suggest only providing members with wipes for two reasons. First, certain machinery displays, for example, should not be sprayed. Second, there is a risk of a spray being mis-used (e.g. what happens if a member accidentally sprays another member in the face – could you be found vicariously liable)?


How long will it take me to clean and disinfect my facility before reopening? How many man hours do I need to allocate for cleaning my facility once we’re open?


A lot longer than you’d probably think. For an average local authority wet facility, I would allow at least 6x people for 6x days to do a good deep clean and then disinfection.


Most areas of facilities aren’t particularly dirty so the cleaning will be easy but nonetheless time consuming. Disinfection is very easy but very time consuming.


In barefoot and wet areas, conversely, my experience is that floors and walls tend to be heavily contaminated and therefore a large chunk of time would be needed to .


To give you an idea, one of my teams of three people, who are experienced and are equipped with specialist chemicals and equipment might do around 200m2 in a shift. That might only be half your changing village. It’s going to take you longer to achieve an equivalent result.


We have set up a calculator you can use to see how long it will take in your particular facility:


How safe is swimming? Does chlorine kill the virus? Can I use pool water for cleaning other areas?


Nothing is 100% proven about pool water but I and other experts would say inside the pool is probably the safest place you could be in a facility.


Chlorine is cited by PHE to disinfect after the virus, however only in a significantly stronger dilution than you’d ever use in your pool. The PWTAG guidance even says you need to clean pool surrounds with a detergent, then disinfect.


I definitely wouldn’t use pool water elsewhere: it’s not likely to work as a disinfectant (see above) and brings other problems: residues make floors slippery & you can get hypochlorite build-up which is almost impossible to remove without super specialist equipment.


What do you see happening in terms of insurance claims or other enforcement when it comes to cleanliness and hygiene?


Insurance claims due to cleanliness & hygiene issues will happen. However, they will be very hard to prove. To protect yourself, you should keep thorough records of all decisions made, copies of all hygiene testing, photos of deep cleaning to show improvements, and – as always – cleaning check sheets and training records.


Should any criminal prosecutions arise, “following recognised industry standards” such as Fit Together is a key component of any trial. You ensure that you fully understand what each of the points mean and are implementing a strategy that covers all points, ideally with some proof of compliance such as hygiene testing.


In my webinar I run through each of the points in the guidance in some detail: